SACRAMENTO (CN) – California Democrat Toni Atkins made history Wednesday, becoming both the first woman and LGBT community member to ascend to the top of the state Senate.
The San Diego first-term Senator is also the first lawmaker to serve as both Assembly speaker and Senate president since 1871. Atkins called California the “world’s breadbasket” in her first Senate address and promised to continue reforming the Legislature’s culture of sexual harassment.
“To some extent, we bear the burden of past sins too often swept under the rug. We can’t change the past. But we can and should be judged on how we shape the future,” Atkins said.
Atkins said the legislative milestone is owed to “individuals who refused to accept closed doors, hidden closets or glass ceilings.”
“They weren’t waiting – they were working. Marching in streets. Battling in courtrooms. Speaking out. Stepping up,” Atkins said, flanked by outgoing Senate President Kevin de Leon and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. “This ascension is their accomplishment, not mine.”
Atkins takes over for Los Angeles Democrat Kevin de Leon who is terming out and running for U.S. Senate. The state Senate unanimously voted in Atkins to the lead post Wednesday.
The Virginia native worked for the San Diego City Council from 2000 to 2008 before being elected to the Assembly in 2010. She served as Assembly speaker from 2014 to 2016.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said Atkins will help push the Democrats’ progressive agenda.
“As a member of the LGBT community, a state Senator, and a resident of California, I’m proud and inspired to have joined in the effort to elect Sen. Atkins to lead the California State Senate,” Wiener said in a statement.